The stoic soldier, with gun pointed down... walking away from a hazy wartorn backdrop.
There are too many shooter games. North Americans are obsessed with their stupid FPS games. AAA games are all becoming FPS games. FPS games are all in shades of gray or brown... they're all about war... they're boring... they're all the same. FPS games are ruining gaming! I see these statements littered through the comments, and frankly, it pisses me off . Usually the person making the statement has not played a lot of FPS games and their only exposure to the shooter concept is aiming for the toilet bowl... and probably missing.
Shooter games involve shooting... and that similarity extends through the genre in the same way that RPG games have quests, or that platformers involve moving, jumping, exploding or rolling from one platform to another, or that fighter games involve mashing some buttons to pull off combos. As with any genre, when one game become inordinately successful, others unfortunately seek to copy it. How many Mario clones are there out there? Why are many JRPG games all similar in some way to Final Fantasy? Why does Bayonetta seem like Dante with boobs? Why do Two Worlds 2, Divinity 2, Dragon Age and Fable all seem suspiciously similar to Oblivion? Yes, the incredible commercial success of the Call of Duty series has had an impact, but this has always happened in gaming. Ideas are often stolen and used as a genre of games grows, evolves and changes.
Sometimes we see the back of the stoic soldier... walking into a hazy, wartorn backdrop.
First off, games like Portal, Borderlands, Half Life, Bioshock and Fallout 3 are all FPS games. They all involve shooting from the first person perspective. Secondly, even among the "typical" war based FPS games there are huge differences. I realize that people generally tend to have a problem with the second part... the war based "realistic" shooters, so I'll restrict myself to discussing those.
Let's look at the single player element. FPS games tend to borrow from a variety of other genres which often makes them all a little different and keeps them interesting. Most tend to have a convoluted story of sort, and yes, the story is usually shitty and often involves Russians or some random terrorist group, not unlike the usual crappy RPG story line of save the Kingdom. Many even involve a quest structure, like Far Cry 2 where the game is very much like a WRPG with a main quest and optional side quests in a fairly open world. The only real difference between Far Cry 2 and Oblivion is that there are guns and jeeps in Far Cry 2 instead of horses and swords.
Other FPS campaigns include racing elements, vehicle sequences, and boss battles. These are very similar to boss battles in other genres - a boss or mini-boss with special powers and you must figure out their weakness through trial and error. They require the same persistence and skill to defeat, although the boss isn't always a specific person - sometimes it's a large group, or a new class of enemy with a specific weapon, a stealth section to get through without being spotted, or sometimes it's a large creature or vehicle. Just like most RPG games, conquering a mini-boss or boss often unlocks a new skill or weapon or alternatively you are given a new weapon/power that must be used to defeat this boss. Many FPS games are based on real-world weaponry, but others like Halo, or Resistance: Fall of Man are based on incredibly fun and imaginative weapons - sniper rifles that can slow down time, bubble shields, or a gun that can shoot through walls. In some FPS games you are alone, in others like Rainbow Six you have a "party" or squad that you can control. In still others, like sections of Modern Warfare, you follow the lead of another character who gives you specific instructions, and in Battlefield: Bad Company you had a hilarious group of A.I. sidekicks that often made me laugh with their humour.
My main point is that FPS single player games are NOT all the same. They are not even all in shades of grey and brown. While they tend towards a more realistic look, I think that the colors of Resistance 2 were closer to a Ratchet and Clank-ish colorful world, than the sepia tones of the first Resistance game. Far Cry 2's jungle areas were alive with bright greens and colorful flowers.
While the single player campaign portions of most FPS games have quite a wide variety of styles, and lean more towards the "adventure" genre, many gamers tend to buy FPS games, not for the campaign, but more for the online portion. Again, these games may seem to be all the same to the view of a more casual outside viewpoint, but they simply aren't any more similar than the platforming in Mario when compared with Super Meat Boy.
Sometimes the soldier is even pointing his gun... against a hazy, wartorn backdrop!
In general, FPS gamers are not attracted to these games because they are violent sociopaths who want to kill (well, maybe a few of us are), they are attracted to these games for the same reason that MMO's are so addictive - it's the social aspect. The game is continually changing depending on who is on your own team and who is on the opposing team. Clans form and people gather together to share a social evening of chatting and teabagging some opposing team. Like MMO's, FPS games also tend to incorporate the hook of "leveling up". There are new ranks, or guns, or classes to be unlocked. For the money spent on a game, FPS online games tend to offer value... hundreds of hours of value.
Yes, most have similar modes. There is deathmatch, team deathmatch and then various objective based modes. No, on closer examination they are NOT even remotely the same. Some are team based games requiring team cooperation in order to win the match (MAG), others are squad based (Battlefield) and others are more individual, where players play mostly on their own for killstreaks and a high score (COD). Additionally there are co-op games like Left for Dead or Resistance 2 which are again similar to MMO's where members group up to take on a quest against A.I. Some FPS games are "twitch shooters" or reactive games that are extremely fast paced like Halo and other arena style shooters, while others are proactive - slower and more strategy based like SOCOM. There are even some FPS games where a high score is not at all based on kills, but can be based on points gained by reviving teammates and repairing team assets. Playing each of these differing game types within the FPS genre requires a substantial shift in how you play. Those used to getting high killstreaks in COD will often find themselves placing last in MAG games because they're not running with their squad getting objective points, revive points or repair points. Those used to using vehicles merely as a form of transportation in MAG will be reviled in Battlefield or Homefront where the use of vehicles is more key to decimating the opposing forces, and using a tank as a taxi to the front lines is a waste of a team asset. In Killzone, the choice of class is often key, not just to a team's win or loss, but also your personal points within a game. There are many variations of FPS games and they can't all be played in the same manner.
In conclusion, before you ever type the words "FPS games are all the same" please don't make an idiot of yourself. There is a reason that FPS games are so popular, there is a reason that a lot of developers create new FPS games - the reason is because they are not all the same. The genre is growing and evolving. In addition to RPG and MMO elements, we are increasingly seeing RTS elements also entering into the category of FPS games. There is room for growth not only in gameplay, but also in social elements. There is a large variety of single player and multiplayer forms of FPS games, creating a vast genre. For fans of the genre there are nuances and substantial differences to the games. Yes, there are lots of sequels in the genre... but who can complain about FPS sequels while they're playing Final Fantasy XIII, Mega Man 9 or the most recent Pokemon, Mario or Madden game. Any genre looks somewhat the same at first glance, that's what makes them part of the same group, but if you think FPS games are "all the same"... then you either don't play them - or you're playing them wrong!
... or maybe you're just judging the book by it's cover, cause yeah, I'll agree that the box art on a lot of FPS games is pretty similar! LOL!